A PRACTICAL EXPOSITION OF I PETER 2:13-3:7
Theology of Suffering - Suffer?
In a study of the theology of suffering, we note that God’s Word has many things to say about problem solving. Very often, the steps described in Scripture for dealing with a problem will bring a wonderful solution. And certainly, you should do everything the Bible teaches to deal with the conflicts of your life. However, there are times when everything you do will not solve the difficulty you are facing. In such cases, it is often God’s will that you suffer for doing good.
How to Suffer for Doing Good 1
In the theology of suffering, we note that there is a wide range of emotions possible at such difficult times in our lives. These emotions range from “bearing up” to “patiently enduring” to “suffering.” From time to time, in God’s providence, you will need to do all these. Very often you will severely suffer with one problem only to discover that, in hindsight, it was a mere mild endurance compared to what you are now going through.
"But, why would I want to suffer, or even patiently endure something, for doing good?" you might ask. And that is a good question. The answer is simple: because it is "commendable before God” (I Peter 2:20, NIV) for you to do so. You may not have known that. Indeed, you may be under the impression, as many Christians are, that to "stand on your own two feet and fight back" would be a more reasonable way of dealing with persecution, especially for doing good. Rhonda thought that she should do just that.
"I'll not be a door mat to that man," she said, speaking of her husband who was sitting next to her. "I intend to stand up for my rights!"
And just maybe that is how you think as well. That is understandable. After all, in an age that makes a point of teaching men and women how to be assertive, what else could be expected?
Let's Look Inside
In our study of the theology of suffering I must ask this question: are you a Christian? That is an extremely important question. Not only does your eternal salvation hang on that answer, but your life here and now is greatly impacted by it as well. Believers are required to bring their thinking and opinions into subjection to God's Word, to test every question by the Scriptures. Are you willing to do that? You should be if you are a believer. For you see, Christians are "bond servants" of Christ. In other words, they are slaves. If you are a believer, you are a slave. Actually, you have always been a slave. Until you came to Christ you were a slave to Satan and sin. Now that you have been "born again," you have been purchased from the auction block of sin with the blood of Christ. Now you are His possession, His bondservant, and His slave. Once you were a slave to Satan and sin, now you are a slave to Christ and righteousness. You no longer "have" to sin. You can now "put off" the sinful patterns of the flesh and "put on" new patterns (habits) of righteousness. Are you, a believer and a bondservant of Jesus Christ, still serving your old master? Peter, speaking to Christians, says this:
Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war
against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation. (I Peter 2:11-12, NASB95)
As a Christian, this is what our theology of suffering has taught us that you must do. You must abstain from fleshly lusts! You must keep your behavior excellent! You must have good deeds so your life might glorify God!
Rhonda was still serving her old master, and as a result she made both her life and marriage miserable failures. It was never her fault. She was a victim of her husband's inconsideration, or so she said. The thought that she might be the victimizer never entered her head. When it was mentioned, she became very angry and refused to cooperate any longer with the counseling effort. She left counseling, never to return. She was a member in good standing of a local evangelical church. She continued to go to church every Sunday and every Wednesday night, and her church spoke not one word of rebuke to her. But she refused to continue in an effort to "put off" the self-righteous patterns of the flesh and "put on" the humility of Christ, so her marriage dishonored God as a result.
How can you tell if you are a Christian? Well, that is simple. Christ said, "If you love me you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15, NASB95). As a believer you are under the authority of Christ and His Word, the Bible. However, are you indeed under that authority? Do you know what the Bible says about how to handle suffering for doing good in your relations with other people? You should - no, you must -- know what God says about suffering for doing good. As a believer you will certainly face evil as a response to your efforts to do the right thing. If you don't know how to respond, to react Biblically to such evil, you may very well fail at a critical point in your life, dishonor God, and do great damage to your marriage, your job, and your very life. Do not misunderstand. As a Christian, you certainly do not have a goal to suffer. What you do have as a goal is to do right and do good, even if it means you must suffer. The Bible has much to say about this topic in I Peter 2:13 through 3:7. In this passage from our theology of suffering we will see our relationship as believers to:
1. Civil government
2. The work place
3. The marriage
Here you will learn in this theology of suffering how to respond to evil.